International Medical Corps – Typhoon Haiyan Emergency Response Update:
One of the most powerful typhoons on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan has left widespread devastation, affecting an estimated 16 million men, women and children, including displacing some 4.4 million people. International Medical Corps was on the ground within 24 hours of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall, providing emergency medical services to some of the most remote communities, many of which had yet to receive relief or health care. Rapid needs assessments revealed that Typhoon Haiyan severely damaged infrastructure, including homes, buildings and power lines; disrupted water supplies; and destroyed livelihoods, especially fishing and agriculture. There was substantial structural damage in rural health centers and village health offices and the storm destroyed stockpiles, creating a severe shortage of supplies and medicines critical to delivering health care.
Rapid Deployment of Mobile Medical Units: To meet urgent medical needs, International Medical Corps deployed rotating teams of international and local medical professionals to the Philippines. International Medical Corps’ first responders rapidly mobilized supplies and began spreading out to heavily affected areas not yet reached by other organizations. In six weeks of operation (from November 15 – December 19), mobile medical teams reached more than 80 villages (barangays) in 21 municipalities throughout Leyte, Eastern Samar, Cebu, and Capiz provinces – providing 14,625 health consultations.
Key services included health care and treatment for injuries, infections and chronic conditions; mental health and psychosocial support for survivors; monitoring diseases of epidemic potential; and nutrition screening for children under the age of 5. A total of 2,171 children were screened by the Mobile Medical Teams, with a total of 120 acute malnutrition cases treated in Leyte and Capiz Provinces. Out of the total consultations, 65% of new consultations (9,349) were women and girls, often some of the most vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster. Further, in coordination with the government of the Philippines, International Medical Corps’ teams also delivered and distributed $1.8M worth of medicine and medical supplies to health care facilities.
Increasing Capacity Through Medical Training: True to its mission, International Medical Corps also provided training to build the capacity of local health care providers while delivering emergency services. International Medical Corps collaborated with the Provincial Health Office and UN agencies to conduct trainings for locally-based medical professionals to ensure that a broad range of health indicators were monitored and holistic health care was addressed in the aftermath of the typhoon. To date, International Medical Corps trained 11 people on SPEED (Surveillance in Post Emergency and Extreme Disasters) and with UNICEF trained participants on malnutrition screening of children under the age of 5. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Medical Corps trained 21 participants from 5 different organizations on critical reproductive health care services designed to save lives and protect women, infants, and young girls during humanitarian emergencies (also known as the Minimum Initial Services Package or MISP). Furthermore, International Medical Corps’ Mental Health Specialist trained national doctors and nurses in Roxas on Psychological First Aid, which gives the skills necessary to support people immediately following extremely stressful events in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities.
Mobile Medical Team – The response in their words: Ivy Caballes, RN-- Mobile Medical Unit Team Leader, Leyte: “When we first arrived in Tacloban, I had mixed emotions as to how I would take it, because it would be my first time seeing the devastation. Because I was a part of the first Mobile Medical Unit, I was made team leader while we were still working in the evacuation center in Cebu. Working with the patients in the evacuation center in Cebu, we noticed that the patients had bad cuts and wounds. Dozens were coming to the evacuation center simply to list missing relatives and missing children. They told us their stories of the devastation. One woman told me, “We were chased by four big ships that were pushed onto land from the ocean.”
“Coming into Tacloban for the first time, I wondered what the devastation is going to be like. We arrived and saw that the airport was gone, and continued hearing stories about family members who had been lost on the coasts and loved ones who had been washed out to sea. It was really depressing and gloomy… on the road going to Tanauan, the devastation just broke your heart.”
“We were all excited to be part of the Mobile Medical Unit, because help does not often make it this far into Leyte. Working with International Medical Corps is a completely different experience. In the Philippines, when you do medical visits you often visit the place, do your assessments, provide your treatment, and then leave. With International Medical Corps, our Medical Director emphasized that we want to build up the existing healthcare providers -- the midwives and nurses -- and offer support where they cannot fill needs.”
“In some of these communities, many residents haven’t seen a doctor in years. After the typhoon, health care is finally beginning to reach the far-flung areas. It was a huge eye-opener for those of us Filipinos who didn’t know the extent of our country’s health concerns. During the crisis, the team was willing to sacrifice, everyone was willing to lend a helping hand. I really applaud the team for their patience and perseverance. It was a great feeling to be a volunteer for your own country.”
Today, International Medical Corps, in coordination with local authorities, is focused on recovery efforts including: building local capacity for mental health services, improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities in schools, and enacting an integrated treatment of malnutrition program. These activities will allow the residents of these storm-ravaged areas to become their own First Responders by making their communities more resilient in the face of any future disasters.
International Medical Corps has been delivering humanitarian assistance in southern Sudan since 1994 and supporting communities across South Sudan since its independence in 2011. On December 15, 2013, heavy fighting broke out in the capital Juba and quickly spread, displacing 740,000 people across the country, and forcing tens of thousands more to seek refuge in neighboring countries. This escalating violence in South Sudan has impacted the delivery of International Medical Corps’ lifesaving services in conflict areas, along with those of many other humanitarian organizations.
International Medical Corps shares the concerns of many in the humanitarian community that the ongoing and escalating conflict will have a devastating impact on civilians in South Sudan and hopes for a swift and permanent cessation of violence. Unfortunately, despite a cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed by the Government of South Sudan and opposition leaders on January 23, the cease-fire was broken on February 18. Fighting has resumed in Malakal forcing numbers seeking refuge at the UN base to around 30,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP). International Medical Corps is providing health and nutritional services to these vulnerable communities, and on February 18 alone, International Medical Corps medical personnel treated more than 100 people hurt in the conflict.
Julia Albert-Recht, Program Manager for International Medical Corps in Malakal says, “The renewed fighting is having a devastating knock-on effect for civilians in Malakal. Even inside the UN camp we have seen tensions begin to rise and we have seen fights break out between groups within the IDP camps.” Albert-Recht continued, “Yesterday, at our clinic, we helped a woman through a very difficult birth and delivered a beautiful healthy baby. If that had been this morning, their lives would be in real danger because we aren’t able to get out to help them. There are thousands of innocent families in Malakal who need health and nutrition assistance which they won’t get because of this latest round of fighting.”
Since heavy fighting began in December, it is estimated that the conflict has claimed over 10,000 lives. Seven of the country’s 10 states are affected by the violence, including Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, and Warrap. The United Nations refugee agency recently warned of severe strains on refugee camp populations in Uganda, while Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya also struggle to serve the influx of people. The humanitarian situation within South Sudan remains dire, with Internally Displaced People in camps urgently needing primary and emergency health care, water, hygiene, and sanitation and nutrition services, and shelter supplies. Tens of thousands more who are seeking refuge in very rural areas continue to lack access to assistance.
International Medical Corps is currently working in Juba, Maban, Awerial and Malakal, where tens of thousands of people are seeking refuge:
International Medical Corps is collaborating with UNICEF to also begin providing comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support to survivors of trauma and gender-based violence and clinical case management in Malakal, Awerial, and Bor. International Medical Corps will continue to closely monitor the security and humanitarian situation across the country and in neighboring countries, and will seek to fill gaps in areas where access was previously limited or impossible.
International Medical Corps has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1999, providing health care, nutrition, food security, gender-based violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services. The prolonged conflict in the DRC is characterized by extreme violence, mass population displacements, widespread rape and collapse of social services. Rape and sexual violence is pervasive in eastern Congo and exists in many forms. Often used as a weapon of war, armed militia and military rape and brutally terrorize women as a way to humiliate families and communities.
Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of social stigma that is attached to the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC. The stigmatization of survivors can lead to them being shunned by their families and the community as a whole, often leading to survivors being chased from their own homes. Being rejected from the community often puts young mothers in a very dire situation that can become life threatening when they find themselves homeless and without any means of supporting themselves and their children.
International Medical Corps is applying a holistic approach to combat this problem by providing medical and psychosocial support the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, while also working to modify the way communities view survivors of rape, which helps deter future attacks and accelerate the recovery of survivors. Below is a story of a courageous young woman who was able to rebuild her life after a very traumatic event with the help of International Medical Corps’ livelihood programming in DRC:
The International Medical Corps trained Kalonge psychosocial team first met Aisha in 2012 Aisha (*Aisha is not her real name and it was changed for her anonymity). She had walked 50 miles from her home in Ninja to escape the fighting and seek help after her ordeal in the hands of a group of armed men.
“I was inside my house with my husband and children. It was the night of March 21, around 9:30 pm. It was common during those days for armed groups to come into the village to steal and rape women and girls. We lived in constant fear of our lives.”
“As we sat with my family, the door suddenly burst open. Three armed men entered the house. They ordered us all to lie down and started tying up my husband’s hands and legs with ropes because he had tried to resist them. While they were tying him up, I screamed hoping neighbors would come and rescue us. They beat me up and said that if I screamed again, they would kill me and then kill my husband. This was enough to silence me. I was afraid that we were going to die. The three armed men proceeded to rape me in turns. They then asked my husband to show them where the money was. They gathered everything including our goats. When they had finished, they came back into the house and asked me to lie still on the ground. They called my children who had escaped to the next room and asked them to surround me and one of the men attempted to rape me in front of my children. My husband started screaming and one of the soldiers killed him.”
“The next morning at my husband’s funeral, I narrated the story to my mother in law who happened to have suffered the same ordeal in a different village. Three days after the incident, my mother in law and I decided to relocate to Kalonge. I was worried because we did not know anyone in Kalonge but I was determined to leave my home to forget all that had happened.”
International Medical Corps has trained many of the staff members at the Kalonge hospital and also built several health centers that offer services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Adding to the provision of healthcare services, International Medical Corps also supports livelihood programs that help sexual and gender-based violence survivors become self-reliant by teaching them a trade, such as making a product that they can sell at local markets. International Medical Corps’ holistic approach to the problem of sexual and gender-based violence in DRC, and especially Kalonge, has created a network that can help a rape survivor at all stages in their recovery.
“Upon arrival in Kalonge, my Mother-in-Law and I reached a health center and I decided to get help because I was not feeling well. At the health center, I told the midwife what had happened and she directed me to where a woman who could help us was located. This woman took us to a community center where we received clothes, soap and food for one week. I met another woman who talked to me and gave me advice and helped me to gradually learn that I had hope even after all that had happened to me. The women also helped us to get someone to give us a place to stay. I continued to come to the community center because I could find help there. There are many times when I did not have the courage to look at someone in the face. My heart could start pounding and I could start crying when I remembered what happened back in my village. As I continued to go to the community center and receive more help from the women there, I gradually became stronger. I found the courage to join other women in the activities in the center.”
“During these sessions, I made friends and found out that some of them had gone through the same thing, but they had gained renewed hope. The woman who met me the first time continued to invite me to her office to talk more about the progress that I was making. She even came to visit me in my home. Of course I was still going through difficult times. My husband had been the sole breadwinner and now I have no one to support me and my children. I had no land to cultivate or a business through which I could make money to buy food. I struggled to feed my children and my mother in law with the little assistance from the community center.
“In September, my mother in law died and I was left alone with my children. Life became so difficult that I could hardly feed my children. To add to this, the house that community members had given us to stay in was destroyed by heavy rain. I was forced to seek refuge in a church. I went back to the community center, but this time, I was trained on how to start a business and given materials to start the small business of selling cassava flour. It has been 5 months since I started a stall at the local market. I am able to feed my children and myself. I have also been able to repair the house that was destroyed by the rain. I have the courage to laugh and even burst into laughter. I have hope to continue living and I am even thinking of returning to Ninja, back to my village.”
“I am thankful for the support that I was given by the people at the community center and all the support I received from International Medical Corps. I have the courage and the will to live despite the difficulties. I encourage the women to continue supporting other women who went through the same thing like me. Don’t give up. Thank you.”